Former ONE Featherweight World Champion Honorio “The Rock” Banario dropped five straight losses following his title-clinching performance over compatriot Eric Kelly in 2013, but has recently turned a new leaf, impressively winning three straight over top flight opponents. A renewed wave of confidence he says is what made a world of difference.
On Friday, 21 April, Banario (11-6) will return to action against tough and durable Australian foe “Ruthless” Rob Lisita (14-9) in a three-round lightweight bout that is being considered an early candidate for Fight of the Night honors.
His belief in himself, Banario explains, is at an all-time high.
“My recent wins have given me my confidence back. I’m happy that I’m now able to show the positive outcome of my hard work. Those losses didn’t put me down, they gave me the strength to push forward,” said Banario.
“It changed my outlook on life, my outlook on this sport.”
By the time Banario had dropped his fifth straight contest, a 56-second submission loss to Ev Ting, the proud Igorot warrior said he had already contemplated surrender and calling it a day. But it was those closest to him — his family, friends, teammates at the Team Lakay MMA gym, coach Mark Sangiao — who urged him to fight on.
“I knew it wasn’t over. I had so many fans, true fans, telling me to soldier on and keep fighting and that they still believed in me. Hearing all the words of encouragement, how can you continue to feel down after that?” said Banario.
“Coach Mark [Sangiao] kept a close eye on me and tried to observe my body language. He wanted to see if my confidence would ever come back. I had to remain positive. I knew whatever I needed to find was still inside of me.”
Now, Banario has won his last three bouts, the most impressive of which was a first round armbar victory over top Indian lightweight prospect Rajinder Singh Meena last December, in front of his hometown crowd in Manila.
This April however, Banario knows he has his work cut out for him. Lisita is one of the toughest fighters in ONE Championship, regardless of weight class.
“He (Lisita) is the type of fighter who will never give up no matter what. In a way, he’s just like me. It doesn’t matter if he’s tired, beat up or losing a fight. There’s no quit in the man. That’s why they call him ‘Ruthless’,” said Banario.
“But I’m prepared for anything. Whatever style he wants to bring to the cage. Whether it’s his usual fast-start, looking for the quick finish, or a more technical, drawn out approach — I’m ready. I’m happy to fight him because I want to be able to test myself against him. He’s a real fighter.”
With the success he has enjoyed at this juncture of his career, Banario surprisingly admits that he feels no pressure at all in trying to extend his winning streak. He says that even though Lisita will be the one inside the cage with him, that he’s not worried about the Australian.
“The only person I’m concerned with is myself,” said Banario.
“I have to stay calm, and ease the pressure. The previous losses only served to teach me a valuable lesson. I’m not really going to battle with another person, I’m going to battle with myself. It’s my own fears and the negative feelings that I have to conquer. If I can beat myself, only then can I get to the next level,” Banario concluded.